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Ghost in the Shell 2:Innocence - The Inspiration

A fine spring day, a carriage sprints

 between this world and the next.

--Batou

In his restless investigation into the meaning of existence and the human soul, Oshii draws on literature and philosophy, spanning the globe and the centuries, and quoting from such far-flung sources as the Old Testament and the Analects of Confucius, as well as such legendary “thinkers” as Isaac Asimov, René Descartes, and Jakob Grimm among many others.

Oshii deals with a moral and spiritual crisis he sees as stemming from the advent of ever more powerful technology, noting “With cell phones and the Internet, people’s perceptions have expanded, but they’re unaware of how this has made their bodies obsolete.”

“Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” envisions a day when humans are just a minority surrounded by robots, cyborgs, and people who have chosen to transfer their “spirits” into artificial and genderless bodies.  Batou, Oshii’s self-proclaimed alter ego, guides the audience through his vision of year 2032, where he grapples with different choices of “life.”

“This movie does not hold the view that the world revolves around the human race," says Oshii.  “Instead, it concludes that all forms of life—humans, animals and robots—are equal.  In this day and age when everything is uncertain, we should all think about what to value in life and how to coexist with others.  What we need today is not some kind of anthropocentric humanism,” Oshii continues.  “Humanity has reached its limits.  I believe that we must now broaden our horizons and philosophize about life from a larger perspective.” 

The film also constantly and consistently questions humanism, which Oshii strongly believes is being forgotten or increasingly made more ambiguous by humans.  “In order to understand humans, you must have a comparison to humans.  It’s always difficult to look at yourself from an objective point of view.  In this film I used dolls and dogs,” says Oshii.

For 30 years, Mamoru Oshii has wanted to explore the theme of dolls.  When he was a student, Oshii fell in love with photographs of a ball-jointed doll by Polish-born surrealist artist Hans Bellmer (1902-1975).  “Each body part of Bellmer’s ball-jointed doll is crafted so beautifully, you never get bored looking at it,” Oshii remarks.

Before starting production on “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence,” the director and his principal crew went “doll scouting” both inside and outside Japan.  At a museum in Sapporo, they saw a life-size, ball-jointed doll by Simon Yotsuya, one of Japan’s leading artists in the field, that was modeled after himself.  That doll became an inspiration for the villain in the film, Kim.

Subsequently, Oshii and his staff got ideas for the design of Kim’s mansion from a dollhouse and giant music box they saw in Atami, a hot-springs town about 65 miles east of Tokyo.  It was during this time that the filmmakers decided the dolls in the movie should have a “bisque” texture.  Bisque refers to a type of doll whose surface is smooth like porcelain but not cold like glass.  In the movie, this particular quality is reflected most noticeably in the whiter complexion of the dolls.

At the International Center of Photography in New York, Oshii was reunited after 30 years with his “first love”: Bellmer’s doll photo, which normally resides at the Pompidou Center in Paris.  It had a profound impact on his vision for “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.”  Then, in Berlin, he was introduced to the dolls that supposedly influenced Bellmer, and at La Specola in Italy, he saw wax anatomical models that were molded from actual corpses.

New York City, where Oshii was reunited with Bellmer’s work, also played a major role in the visual landscape of “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.”  The director offers, “The only reason I went to New York was to see Bellmer’s doll. I wasn’t thinking about scouting locations, but as it turned out, New York was the city with the definitive gothic atmosphere that I had been seeking.  It’s a city of ominous skyscrapers and perpendicular lines.  Wherever you go, you’re surrounded by flat, perpendicular surfaces, and the city is completely closed off because there is no distant view whatsoever.

“When I saw beams of light coming through the gap between high-rise buildings, the whole megalopolis suddenly felt like an enormous temple,” Oshii continues.  “I was reminded of the sensation I got during location scouting for the first Ghost in the Shell, when a sudden rainstorm transformed the entire city of Hong Kong into an enormous canal before my eyes.”

Inspired, Oshii bought dozens of New York photo books and told his art director to do extensive research in Chinatown.  The gothic architectural style perfectly conveyed the inner turmoil of the protagonist, Batou, as he wanders the streets carrying the memory of his love, Motoko.  So, for the production design of “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence,” which is set in an unspecified Asian city in the not-so-distant future, Oshii decided to go with a style he labeled “Chinese Gothic,” which emphasizes a mysteriously foreign ambience in the story.

One question repeats throughout the film: Why are humans so obsessed with recreating themselves? 

Dolls are duplicates of human beings, perhaps representing the attempt to realize eternity—the ultimate beauty transcending human status.  With his mechanized body and lack of visible affect, Batou himself is somewhere between a man and a grotesque giant doll.  Only his devotion to his pet Basset Hound and his silent longing for the Major are reminders of his humanity.

The Basset Hound is modeled after Oshii’s own dog, Gabriel, who makes an appearance in every film by the director. Oshii is a an ardent dog lover, as evidenced by the fact that ten years ago, in order to find an ideal enviroment to live with his dogs (he also has a mutt named Daniel), he moved from Tokyo to Atami.  Because he works five days a week in Tokyo, his weekends with his dogs give him immeasurable joy.  “As humans have become more ‘mind-oriented’ and the environment has become more urban, some have forgotten the idea of the human body,” says Oshii.  “As far as they’re concerned, the human body does not exist anymore.  The reason that people of today choose to have dogs is that they’re looking for a substitute to the human body.”

courtesy of DreamWorks and Go Fish Pictures

 

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